How often do you take a minute and think about the evolution of your own journey? Sometimes it happens at the end of a year, after achieving a milestone or ticking off a bucket list adventure, but how often do you really stop and think about how you got to where you are? Think about it – if Jane Goodall had never left London, if Sir Edmond Hilary had never left New Zealand and if Rosa Parks had never taken a seat on that bus – where would their journeys have gone? We may not all be explorers or activists, but in our own way, we are each on our own journey. If Ferris Bueller taught us anything it’s that ‘Life moves pretty fast sometimes. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it’. What’s the evolution of your journey?
For some of us, we might reach all the way back to childhood to remember what we were like as kids, what captured our interests in our teenage years or to that first job we ever had. For some of us, we might head to the type of childhood we had, what activities we were involved in and what we thought we’d be doing in those five or ten years after high school. Still for others, that evolution may have started in the last decade, the last years or the last few months – perhaps you’re on the verge of the shift right now. What’s the evolution of your journey?
I’m not certain exactly how far back I’d reach to begin my story. Could I start with my childhood, upbringing, sleep away camp experience and university adventures – sure I could. While all of those pieces make up who I am and how I see the world, wherever travel enters my story is where the evolution begins. It could be Disney family holidays or Montauk beach play dates. It could be camp counselors from abroad who first brought a love of accents and culture into my world. I think they’re a part of it all – but I think a turning point is that first trip to Israel at the malleable age of 20. It was over 25 years ago, now, but I can still smell the aromas of the shuk, feel out of breath from my first ever hike, glimpse the desert stars from a Bedouin tent, taste the salt from the Dead Sea and close my eyes to experience the epic, brilliant sunrise atop Masada. And then, months after my return, I can still feel my eyes dance and the corners of my mouth upturn upon retelling the story to my Aunt at Thanksgiving. Without ever knowing it, I think that’s the beginning of my tipping point. What’s yours?
Like all journeys, there are twists and turns, stubbed toes and busted ankles, mountains to climb and rivers to cross. And at each of those crossroads, we have a choice. The Broadway show, If/Then is quite literally modeled after that choice. At a pinnacle point, life could go one way or the other and although we’d like to, rarely do we glimpse what it would have been like had we taken that other turn. When I backpacked Europe with friends after university, I couldn’t possibly imagine how much travel would impact my life’s journey. If you asked me 25 years ago if I would have become a teacher, I would have said no. If you asked me five years into teaching if I would ever leave before retirement, I would have said no. If you asked me if I saw myself leaving the state of NY, I might have hesitated and thought, maybe, but there were too many things I believed for which I had to stay. We really never know what’s around that next bend in the road or the river.
Who would have ever thought travel would shift my perspective and change my life as much as it has – not me, that’s for sure. But, once that first spark happened – the feeling was too good to ever want to put out. Travel and what comes with it has been a part of my journey for more than half of my life now. It’s opened doors I never knew existed, introduced me to people who have helped shape my life and shared experiences with me I never thought possible. Travel has ebbed my doubts and anxiety. Travel has given me hope. Travel has given me wings and travel has brought me the love of my life. I can honestly say, I wouldn’t be me, without that travel attitude, that travel perspective and that travel gratitude.
It was around 20 years ago that I was fully invested in my summer camp work and began my teaching career. I loved those aspects of life, the lessons they taught me and the people they brought into my world. Fifteen years ago I traveled to the other side of the world again and again, my journey evolved. 10 years ago I was on a leave of absence from teaching, living abroad and in the middle of chasing the sun on a one-year honeymoon around the globe. 5 years ago we moved into our first apartment in San Diego and had no idea where life would take us – would we stay, for how long, would we like it here, would we make friends and all of the other ‘what if’s’ bombarded our thoughts. Today, we’ve shifted jobs (and one of us, careers) and coasts, once again love where we live and are truly happy at this point of the journey.
Who knows where the road will lead, but, today, in this moment, in this space, I am grateful, I am hopeful and my heart is full. Wherever your journey takes you, do your best to find gratitude and joy amidst the ride.